Darrell Issa

House GOP “exporting the Issa model” in holding Obama accountable

Issa subpoena power

House Republicans are set to expand the subpoena power of a number of Committee Chairman in an effort to put more pressure on the Obama Administration and the various departments under investigation, a move one Democrat staffer said was tantamount to “exporting the Issa model to the rest of the House.” That comment refers to the power California Republican Darrell Issa wielded as Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform during investigations into “Operation: Fast and Furious” and the IRS scandal.

POLITICO reports:

The change means that, in a break from years of tradition, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) wouldn’t need to consult with his panel’s top Democrat before subpoenaing documents or witnesses about issues like Obamacare or the Environmental Protection Agency. The GOP is also proposing similar boosts in authority for Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), whose panel’s jurisdiction includes the Dodd-Frank financial regulations law, and for Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who will oversee any probes into immigration.

Two other panels — Agriculture and Science, Space and Technology — are considering making the same change. And in a similar move, the House passed a rules package last week that gave the energy, science, finance and Ways and Means committees the power to let their counsels hold depositions in private.

Disgraced ex-IRS official will not get immunity in exchange for testimony

When disgraced IRS official Lois Lerner appears before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday, she will not receive immunity for any testimony she gives, according to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA):

“Her attorney indicates now that she will testify. We’ve had a back and forth negotiation,” Issa told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. “But quite frankly, we believe that evidence that we’ve gathered causes her in her best interest to be summoned to testify.”

The evidence that Issa, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, has obtained are emails showing that Lerner drafted the proposed IRS regulations that would restrict political speech of nonprofit groups that engage in public policy discussions. The regulations are currently being considered by the IRS.

Wallace asked whether the House Oversight Committee offered Lerner immunity in exchange for her testimony. “We did not,” Issa replied, adding later that he believes the disgraced IRS official will answer all the committee’s questions about the powerful tax agencies targeting of conservative groups.

Judge dismisses DOJ request end lawsuit over “Fast and Furious” documents

Attorney General Eric Holder might have a hard time keeping the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee from browsing through the “Fast and Furious” documents now that a federal judge has rejected his request to dismiss the committee’s lawsuit.

The Justice Department had requested the U.S. District Court to dismiss the Committee’s lawsuit asking for access to the “Operation Fast and Furious” documents, which had been kept from Congress after President Barack Obama asserted executive privilege over the records.

The president’s assertion was timely provided, given its stalling of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s investigation into “Fast and Furious,” which ultimately prompted Rep. Darrell E. Issa (R-CA) to question Obama’s reasoning behind the delay to assert privilege over the documents. The President’s assertion of privilege over the documents happened exactly eight months after they were subpoenaed.

According to the investigators looking into the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) undercover operation known as “Operation Fast and Furious,” as many as 2,000 weapons might have ended up in the hands of narcotraffickers. Multiple crime scenes were connected to some of the weapons that might have been brought across the Mexican border as a result of the undercover operation.

While the DOJ confirmed its officials had turned virtually all records concerning the operation, but a letter sent to Congress on February 4, 2011 shows certain inconsistencies that worried Congressional investigators.

IRS Re-Finalizes Regulations Forcing Obamacare Subsidies on Federal Exchanges

Seemingly in response to this letter from Chairmans Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Dave Camp (R-MI) on January 29 to the Treasury and IRS, on February 1, the IRS again finalized the Obamacare subsidy regulations that flagrantly deviate from the statutory authority.  This issue continues to simmer relatively under the radar since I last wrote about it in August. To refresh everyone’s memory, Obamacare’s core redistributionist provisions are its refundable premium tax credits and cost sharing subsidies available for individuals to purchase coverage on state exchanges starting in 2014.  The credits will be available to anyone with annual income under 400% of the federal poverty line who isn’t covered under an employer-sponsored plan.  To put that in perspective, a family of four today earning up to $92,200 per year would be eligible for the credits.

Federal Exchanges Excluded
Here’s the kicker: Obamacare specifically limits these credits and subsidies to individuals who purchase coverage on an exchange established by the state.  Below is the actual, unambiguous provision from PPACA [emphasis added]:

House Republicans begin digging on Libya security failures

Libya hearing

Yesterday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committe held its first round on hearings over last month’s terrorist attack at the United States consulate in Benghazi, Libya that took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, and the subsequent cover-up.

House Republicans are looking to get to the bottom the security failures that aided terrorists in attacking the consulate and finding out why the White House and State Department initially blamed the anti-Islamic video, “Innocence of Muslims,” for the incident. In case you haven’t read anything about the hearing, things got a little testy.

Eli Lake, who has contributed some excellent reporting on aftermath of the attack and cover-up, has a great breakdown of the hearing:

The star witness for Republicans at Wednesday’s hearing on the assault on the consulate in Benghazi said he twice urged the State Department to keep an elite diplomatic security team in Libya, but was denied each time. The team, a group of soldiers attached to the national guard, left the country in August.

In his testimony, Eric Nordstrom, the top U.S. diplomatic security official in Libya until the end of June, was at times harshly critical of his superiors at State. His tone differed from his prepared remarks, which appeared more measured, and which he said were written with the help of guidelines from the State Department. In those remarks, he said the vast majority of his requests for security resources were “considered seriously and fastidiously.

Fast And Furious: Isn’t the ATF just the Government’s Appendix?

Throughout this Fast & Furious mess, nearly everyone has paid attention to just Darrell Issa and Eric Holder squaring off in a Congress committee room. But there’s another thing that should be focused on, that being the agency at the heart of this disgrace. But I surely cannot have been the only person to ask this question:

Why do we even have ATF around anymore?

Well, maybe I have. Bear with me as I try to answer it.

Let’s read their mission statement:

A unique law enforcement agency in the United States Department of Justice that protects our communities from violent criminals, criminal organizations, the illegal use and trafficking of firearms, the illegal use and storage of explosives, acts of arson and bombings, acts of terrorism, and the illegal diversion of alcohol and tobacco products. We partner with communities, industries, law enforcement, and public safety agencies to safeguard the public we serve through information sharing, training, research, and use of technology.

A “unique” agency? How can unique can that be?

  • “protects our communities from violent criminals” – Doesn’t every law enforcement agency do that?

  • “criminal organizations” – Sounds more like an FBI job or something for the gang squad of a local PD

  • “the illegal use and trafficking of firearms” – Okay, I can sorta see this one

  • “the illegal use and storage of explosives” – This one too, sort of, but I would think that other agencies could also handle explosions quite readily

  • “acts of arson and bombings” – Two words: fire department. Okay, four more: Federal Bureau of Investigation

Washington Post uncovers earmarks used near lawmakers personal property

The practice of earmarks has come under scrutiny in recent years and some members in both chambers have pushed for bans on the practice because of the propensity of their colleagues to use them for less than noble purposes. The House of Representatives did enact a moratorium, though it doesn’t seem to be all that effective.

Some say that restricting earmarks is unconstitutional because it cuts in on congressional spending authority in Article I, Section 8. Others say that earmarks represent a fraction of the budget and eliminating them does nothing in the way of restoring fiscal responsibility. The former has some merit, but we know how James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, felt about spending for pork projects. It’s hard to see that he would find funding peanut research meets any constitutional litmus test.

The latter is true; however, earmarks are the epitome of what is wrong with Washington, DC. Yes, reforming entitlements and cutting spend elsewhere is incredibly important, but earmarks are a symbolic part of the battle. If we can’t cut this fraction of spending out of the budget or reform the earmark process, are we naive enough to believe that we can reform entitlements?

Back in 2006, at the height of the discussion about ethics in Congress, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) explained that earmarks are the “currency of corrpution.” Not only were members using them to steer business to donors and friends, they were being used by leadership of both parties to sway votes on legislation.

It’s time to bring down SOPA and PROTECT IP

Over the last couple of months, we’ve been keeping you up to date on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). While its supporters say that the legislation is needed to safeguard intellectual property rights and protect jobs, SOPA and the PROTECT IP Act (it’s Senate counterpart) would fundamentally change the Internet by censoring websites that purportedly enable copyright infringement or piracy.

There are many who will deny that piracy is a growing problem, but the answer to the problem is not SOPA, PROTECT IP, or any other bill that would promote government censorship of the Internet and, as Mark Lemley, David Levine, and David Post have noted, remove due process protections for sites accused of copyright infringement. These bills would also tinker with DNS filtering, which would block “offending” websites from being accessed by Internet service providers.

As you can imagine, the consequences of these two bills has many websites owners on edge. The prospect of an entire site being essentially wiped off of the web due to a single instance of copyright infringement, even if it’s unintended, has many ready to fight back. That’s why today many big names are either blacking out their sites in protest of SOPA/PIPA — among them are Wikipedia, Reddit, Mozilla, and Wordpress.org. Others, such as Google, are hoping to educate vistors of the dangers of these two bills.

Drop the SOPA: Protect the Internet from censorship

I’m kind of a rare breed of libertarian.  I actually believe in the concept of intellectual property.  As such, some might be under the belief that folks like me would be in favor of something like the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA.

Of course, they would be horribly, horribly wrong.

Regardless of ones feelings on IP, the reality is that SOPA is nothing less than a NDAA or PATRIOT Act for the internet.

You see, the internet is the last bastion of freedom anywhere in the world.  While it’s entirely possible to render something illegal in one country, it’s virtually impossible to stamp it out.  Laws and regulations become meaningless as physical borders mean nothing on a cyberscape free from such lines.

The kick in the butt with this bill, as with many similar bills, is that it really won’t do a whole heck of a lot to combat piracy.  Of course, there are some that will argue that what SOPA seeks to do is crush that freedom. That ideas breed in such freedom, and such ideas can not be allowed to incubate.

I don’t know if I would go that far, but what is clear is that SOPA is nothing more than a powergrab.  Those that are supposed to support and defend the Constitution have instead decided to just ignore the document completely.

SOPA seeks to require your ISP to spy on you.  It seeks to hurt companies like Mozilla that haven’t done what the powerful want it to do.  It seeks to rewrite the current laws regarding the internet and remake it into a place where innovation no longer happens.

Now, SOPA may not be all bad.  After all, plenty of companies will love to open up their nations to the off-shore dollars that are bound to flee the United States after a SOPA-like bill is passed.  While I’m not an opponent of out sourcing per se, I’d prefer it not to be encouraged through idiotic legislation.

SOPA must be shot down by Congress

On the heels of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which effectively shredded the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment and Habeas Corpus, Congress will likely take up the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) at some point early next year.

For those of you that haven’t followed SOPA, Tina Korbe at Hot Air offers a very good introduction to the legislation:

Introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) and co-sponsored by representatives from both parties (the bill has a total of 31 co-sponsors!), the Stop Online Piracy Act purports to stop “foreign online criminals from stealing and selling America’s intellectual property and keeping the profits for themselves.”

According to Rep. Smith’s website, “IP theft costs the U.S. economy more than $100 billion annually and results in the loss of thousands of American jobs. The Stop Online Piracy Act specifically targets foreign websites primarily dedicated to illegal activity or foreign websites that market themselves as such. The bill ensures that profits from America’s innovations go to American innovators.”

That sounds relatively harmless, but there has been a lot of concern among tech-advocates that SOPA would would lead to censorship and deter innovation on the Internet.

Korbe continues:


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